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Portrait of a Man with Gold Watch
by Rembrandt Van Rijn
Metropolitan Museum of Art/New York

 

 

Before Restoration
After Restoration
Click image to enlarge

This wonderful painting is a pendant to a companion portrait of the mans wife which fortunately hangs just to the viewers right and the animated and loving composition of his arms aludes to this.As with most of the greatest of Rembrandts portraits, the sitter is enveloped in a soft, illuminating light which cascades from the upper left ,across the sitter and then against the neutral green/brown cloth or wall .More than likely , Rembrandt chose to place the sitter inside of a shadow box which through clever positioning of drapery, enhances and focuses the light on the sitter for best effect.Keeping this in mind it becomes apparent how important the concept of the light moving across the sitter is, as this was how the artist orchestrates the viewers experience "through" the painting. Indeed this was one of the cornerstones of Rembrandts great artistic achievement and legacy-namely the orchestration of the "light effect" to create maximum emotional impact.The great injustice in this new restoration is how the restorers seem to be quite oblivious of this concept.It is a wonder that more Rembrandt scholars haven't spoke out.In this freshly scrubbed Rembrandt the light now appears to come from above.In addition , it must be pointed out that the very thing that makes a painting "glow"-i.e. skillfull placement of restrained reflected lights, has been deleted.The hair ,or as could be decscribed-the vortex of light around the face-has been ignorantly cut away, now making the man look as though his hair is wet.Maybe this will be construed by future generations as to the early 21st centuries penchant for hair gel. Lastly, the entire volume of light on the mans' shoulder, a shoulder and torso with real bones and muscle pushing against the fine brocaded mantle, has been clumsily erased giving the painting a comical almost pathetic feeling, totaly unlike the character of dignity and adoration that Rembrandt had originally portrayed.


The anatomy lesson of Dr.Tulp
by Rembrandt Van Rijn
Mauritz Haus/Leiden, Holland

 

 

 

Before Restoration
After Restoration

 

click image to enlarge

I include this great landmark painting by Rembrandt to illustrate how subtle value relationships can be in maintaining a coherent restoration.Knowing this painting in person and spending time studying it before the restoration allowed me to appreciate the grandness of the effect that was orchestrated and how perfect the balance was.First of all the painting is not badly restorerd, the staff at the Mauritz Haus took great pains to research the painting and called in many experts in the field for consultation.In this authors opinion, the Dutch along with the Russians have probably the most skillfull artisan/restorers in the world . The distinction is that they have more solid training as artists in addition to their academic/theoretical studies.This being said it is also important to say,after careful study of the restoration, that the Dutch team did not get it entirely right.At first glance it is apparent that the white collars on Dr. Tulp and his associates are jumping out too fast.In addition the light effect centered on the hand and hip of the cadaver has been washed out ,preventing the viewer to experience the fantastic close value modeling on the rib cage .Also, the original painting preserved the very subtle distinction in color between the living and the dead.A breath-like viel of decaying green/greyness had descended on the hapless criminal, the life blood having drained away heralding the onset of corruption.Conversely, and Rembrandt had expertly calculated this,a gawking enthusiast hovers just above the display, his fleshy rose madder cheeks and animated gaze heightening the seperation of the two worlds.This fabulous and restrained balance extended throughout the painting.Unfortunately these very tenuous and profound balance has been tipped


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